Last month, I wrote a post that took a feminist inspired look at the ‘fake geek girl.’ This has been one of my most popular posts. Rarely does a day go by without at least one person commenting on it.
The other day, Jesus Garay provided a comment that left me a bit speechless. He shared a story about a time where he called a man out on his sexist ‘fake geek girl’ comments and was called a ‘white knight.’ To my knowledge, being a white knight isn’t usually a bad thing, but it was clear in the context of his comment that he took offense to this label. It implied the only reasons for his actions were to stand up for a woman and he went on to say he was there to help a fan. Gender wasn’t an important factor.
I probably typed and rejected four or five different responses before I let the comment sit. Jesus’s comment brought forth too many ideas and opinions from me. There was one common theme in the responses I typed. Patriarchy harms men, too.
If that statement sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve written about the negative effects patriarchy can have on men. The main point is that patriarchy is more about masculinity than it is about having a penis. If you have a penis and choose to act in a non-masculine fashion, society is not kind to you. Sometimes, the reaction can be violent, such as when a member of the LGBT community is beaten just because of their sexuality. Other times, society’s reaction seems more like a bully who laughs at the one who is different.
The reason Jesus gives for his anger seems to be the assumption that he only helped out a fan because of her gender, implying they thought he wouldn’t have done the same thing had they been harassing another man.
There are assumptions on both genders here. Obviously there is the claim a woman can’t truly be into geek or nerd culture and that she must be doing it for male attention. The male assumption is that the only reason for coming to her aid is to woe her. That is the fairy tale of the white knight, after all. He saves his princess and together, they ride off into the sunset, living happily ever after.
At first glance, that male assumption may not seem like much. There is nothing wrong with a man standing up for a woman, just like there is nothing wrong for any person, of any gender, to stand up for any other person of any gender. As Jesus said, he would have gladly come to the aid of any fan. Gender wasn’t a factor.
I feel like there is something else behind the term ‘white knight’ that brought offense in this situation. There is a male stereotype out there that says a man doesn’t do anything for a woman without expecting something in return. Usually, that something has sexual implications. This is related to the idea that a man and a woman can’t be ‘just friends’ (as if friendship is such a horrible thing).
Everyone has different opinions on this. I have met women who refuse to let their significant other have female friends and vice versa. That seems insane, immature and insecure to me, but to each their own. I’m not here to dictate the relationships of others. I will say, however, than men and woman can be friends. They can enjoy each other’s company, think each other is attractive and not have any desire to bang.
Sometimes I feel like this is still a radical idea. I have my share of men who are great friends. Why is that such a threat?
One other things stands out to me about the assumption a man would stand up for someone just because they are a woman. The flip side of that thought is that they would not stand up for someone of another gender.
It shouldn’t matter who needs help. Men who are being harassed by bullies or who are in need of assistance deserve help as much as anyone of another gender. They shouldn’t feel ashamed either. We all need help sometimes and whether or not someone comes to our aid shouldn’t depend on our gender.
In our society, the idea that women need protection is normal. Men, on the other hand, are expected to be masculine. They are expected to stand up for themselves and provide for their own well being. Even if it’s an unconscious assumption, I wonder if that is the reason why there is no NIte Ride for men. It’s the same reason why male victims of rape or domestic violence are far less likely than women to report to the authorities. In being unable to protect themselves, a quality that is not considered masculine, they fear the judgement of society.
These might not be the ideas people assume a feminist would have, but here I am and here they are. Feminism is about gender equality. It shouldn’t matter whether you are male, female or non-binary. We all deserve respect, protection and chivalrous action when the bullies are coming down on us.